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Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cinnamon Star Cookies (Zimtsterne) - revisited the low-carb way (LC, GF, SF)

Last year I posted the gluten-free, but sugared version of these traditional German Christmas cookies.

This year I want to add the sugar-free and therefore low-carb version of these lovely cookies!




The biggest challenge of these cookies is to get the slightly crunchy meringue top right, which isn’t an easy undertaking with sugar substitutes!

However, it has worked pretty well for me when using the ingredients I will be listing  below. However, I can’t guarantee that this will work out equally well if you start to substitute other sweeteners! Chances are it won’t as my previous attempts of meringues with other combinations, didn’t work out all that well! The only exception would be to replace everything with diabetisweet or other maltitol based sweetener. Maltitol tends to act just like sugar. I like to avoid Maltitol so it’s hardly ever in any of my recipes.


A quick note: The pictures are taken of the cookies made with cashew flour, rather than hazelnut as a special request. The cashews aren’t as fine as hazelnuts or almonds would be.

Now without further ado - the recipe!


  • 3 whole Egg Whites (room temperature*)
  • 1 pinch Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
  • 3/4 cup of Ideal sweetener
  • 1/2 cup of Erythritol, powdered +plus more for working the dough (Xylitol works too)
  • 1 tbsp. polydextrose (optional)
  • 2 drops of stevia extract
  • 1/4 tsp butter vanilla bakery emulsion (or vanilla extract)
  • 2 tbsp. Ground Cinnamon
  • zest of one Lemon, or strips of lemon peel finely ground in food processor ***
  • 2-⅔ cups Ground Hazelnuts (also known as Filbert Nuts) - other nuts or seeds like almonds will also work**                                                           


* You will get more volume when beating egg whites if you first bring them to room temperature.

** If you can’t get ground hazelnuts/almonds, grind them in a food processor. It doesn’t have to be as fine as almond flour, but it should be pretty fine, with the odd bit of slightly bigger nuts. Once you’re done grinding, THEN measure them for this recipe!*

***Since we are using fresh lemon peel, I usually throw the lemon peel strips (made using a potato peeler) in the food processor, with some of the measured nuts and run it through the food processor again. Then I add the xanthan gum for even distribution and pulse a couple more times.*


Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.


Beat egg whites, cream of tartar, powdered erythritol and salt until frothy. Under constant beating, dust in the polydextrose, little by little.



Once you have soft peaks, add the Ideal, again little by little and under constant beating until you have somewhat stiff peaks. It’s important to use the erythritol first, as it takes the longest to dissolve!



Fill 1/3 of the meringue mix into a Ziploc bag and set aside.



Fold the cinnamon, lemon peel (if you haven’t already) and ground nuts into the remaining 2/3 of the meringue mix.


Line your work surface with a large sheet of plastic or parchment paper.


If your dough is on the very sticky side, sprinkle it with some more ground nuts and powdered sugar substitute and work the dough through a little. Mine was quite workable to begin with and didn’t need any additions.

Top with another plastic sheet or parchment paper and  roll out the dough on your plastic sheet. If the top is really sticky, add some more ground nuts etc, or line the top of the dough with another sheet of plastic and roll it out to about 1/2 inch thickness.



Peel off the top layer of plastic/parchment paper.

For the low-carb cookies I went with 1/4 inch thickness to make more! But if you do this, remember to reduce the baking time to about 8-9 minutes!



With a star cookie cutter, cut as many stars as you can get and place them on a cookie sheet. It helps to dunk the cookie cutter into some powdered sugar substitute as you go.



Reroll the left-over dough and continue cutting out stars until there is no dough left.


Now snip the corner of the Ziploc bag with the meringue mix.



Either, roughly pipe a thin layer of the meringue mix, spreading it out evenly all over the top of the star with the back of a small spoon. Or, and this is currently my favorite method, pipe a generous dot in the middle of the star, then pull the meringue mix to the corners with a knife. Try and keep the layer thin and as even as possible!






And here is the trick for the meringue top to be at it’s best. Let the cookies dry for 4 hours. This step is optional but I would recommend it as the meringue gets crispier that way. Since it’s very dry around these parts, I generally go with 4 hours of drying time. However, if  it’s damp where you are, overnight (8 hours) might do the trick. Just leave them uncovered on your counter.

Preheat oven to 300F.

Bake for 15 minutes. Don’t overbake these! You want them to be moist on the inside! Let the cookies cool completely before trying to move them. The meringue topping will crisp up a little too!


If you don’t want to mess around with cookie cutters and such, you could also just make snowy “kisses”. Roll a small ball of dough in your hand. Press it to about 1/2 inch height with your finger, pipe on some meringue mix. Now with these I would recommend letting them dry. Since there is more meringue topping, the drying for several hours helps to make them into crispy meringue topping rather than the lemon meringue pie type of topping! And the meringue doesn’t turn brown as quickly as the non-dried meringue either!






And here is the difference in the meringue for not drying (the stars) and drying (the snowy kisses)



Granted, I did leave those stars in a tad too long as they caught around the edges a little too, but see the difference in the meringue? When you let it dry out  a bit, you get a snowier white! And as you can see, they are easy to over bake! So get them out before they go that darker golden brown around the edges!


Oh and by the way, the above meringue recipe works GREAT as a lemon meringue pie topping!

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Birgit Kerr